Live Jazz @ Pickle Room Wed. March 18

For years, Willy Gilbert created one of the coolest soundtracks with his extensive collection of jazz CDs and coming in Wednesday night 6:30 – 11 pm, the soulful jazz duo of John Schnackenberg & Cougar Estrada are going to be “Willy’s live juke box” as Schnack said to me… they’ll be playing with vocalist Liz Barnitz too — she’s a jem of a singer.  Stop in and catch the jazz groove and enjoy a classic cocktail.

keyboard player Cougar Estrada and Sax player John Schnackenberg
keyboard player Cougar Estrada and Sax player John Schnackenberg

What a week!

Three events in five days that were as varied as could be. Lots of press breaks to advance the info – first up was a presentation by an expert in PTSD with a new book out, a luncheon/symposium on the 70th Anniversary of Iwo Jima and the public screening of the documentary on Jimmy’s where I was Mistress of Ceremonies.  Every event was so well-attended.  When I got to Sunday – and really had no idea of how many would show – walking into the house and seeing it full, put the cap on a powerful week for me.  I cried.  Happy tears.  Oh, and I got another client a TV news story as a new business in between the events that just aired tonight in 6pm news.  Not too shabby.

Steve Binder Returns to Plaza Playhouse with Elvis’ ‘Comeback Special’


Don't ya just love those neckerchiefs?

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(Carpinteria, CA) Elvis Presley would have turned 80 on January 8, 2015. To commemorate the anniversary of the King’s birth, the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carpinteria will screen an extended cut of the Elvis Comeback TV Special on January 10, 2015 at 7pm. The special had a one time only showing on NBC-TV on December 3rd, 1968 and was the highest rated program of its type. This is Elvis at the top of his game and looking great in a sleek all black leather outfit, to match his jet black hair in the traditional pompadour for most of the show. Dancer’s costumes and make-up are vintage 60s. All his #1 hits are included in the show and this screening adds more footage not used on the TV special. Running time is 90 minutes.
At a get acquainted meeting in the spring of 1968, Steve Binder—recently tapped to direct an upcoming Christmas TV Special with Elvis Presley—was asked by the King of Rock N’ Roll where he saw the singer’s career at the moment. Binder, knowing that Presley hadn’t had a chart making hit in a number of years and that his last TV performance was nearly seven years before, jokingly replied, “In the toilet.”
Surprisingly, Presley didn’t take offense to the comment, but instantly took a liking to the honesty expressed by Binder which then launched the two of them into collaborating on what would become a record breaking show by the end of the year. Simply called “Elvis,” the 1968 TV special became better known as “The Comeback Special.” Elvis’ popularity soared and he roared back into the public eye.
As initially conceived by Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, and several executives of NBC, it was to be a show that would feature primarily carols, hymns and gospel songs. Binder bluntly told Elvis it must showcase the huge hits he had made so popular over the past 12 years and it should be staged in an intimate setting, with Elvis surrounded by the audience. Elvis agreed, but Parker angrily rejected the idea and wanted Binder fired, however, he too came around to accepting the concept.
Proceeds from this show will be for the theater’s “Big Screen” campaign. Peter Bie, PP board member said “This will be the final push for the money to buy the big screen and all the accessories needed to complete the experience.”
Get the inside story behind the making of the special, fraught with all kinds of off stage troubles and his mutually respectful relationship with Presley, as told by Binder in a Q&A that will follow the showing of the special.
When Steve was at the Plaza in August for a screening of “The T.A.M.I. Show” it sold out 24 hours in advance and everyone who was lucky enough to be in the house said, “Bring back Steve Binder!” Find out how TV handled the new craze of rock n’ roll music with the man who broke all the rules and a few barriers along the way.
Tickets for this one night event are $20 and available in person at Seastrand, 919 Linden Ave., Carpinteria during regular business hours (cash or check only). You can also buy online at
The Plaza Playhouse Theater is located at 4916 Carpinteria Avenue, Carpinteria, CA 93013. Phone: (805) 684-6380. Free parking nearby. The box office will be open on Saturday, January 10 from noon until the start of the show at 7pm to accommodate last minute ticket purchases. Wheelchair accessible.
www. In Steve Binder’s Bio: 1968 would be the year that Steve conceived, produced and directed Elvis Presley in the highly acclaimed ratings winner for NBC, most often referred to as “The Comeback Special.” Legendary record producer Bones Howe handled all the recording chores for the show. TV Guide called it “the second greatest musical moment in television history next to the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan.” Steve’s 2008 book on the making of the Elvis special, “’68 at 40–A Retrospective,” tells the inside story of how Elvis initially reacted to Binder and the working relationship that developed between the two.




rock n' roll royalty
James Brown and Mick Jagger circa 1964

(Carpinteria, CA)   Brought out of the vault and finally released to DVD after 50 years of sitting on the shelf, the star-filled rock n’ roll 1964 concert film, “The T.A.M.I. Show” will be screened Saturday, August 23 at 7:15pm at the Plaza Playhouse Theater, Carpinteria. The Playhouse will use the one-time only event to raise funds for the purchase of a real ‘big screen’ for the intimate theatre.

The show, conceived as a live-concert-to-tape-to-film event, was shot over a two-day period in late October 1964 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It featured many of the greatest rock n’ roll acts of the day: Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Lesley Gore, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and the Famous Flames, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, plus Jan and Dean (who were the hosts). Roster of entertainers also included: The Barbarians, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas. The house band for the T.A.M.I. show was the famous group of studio musicians called “The Wrecking Crew.” In the audience were students from nearby junior and senior high schools who had been given free tickets—including future director John Landis and actor/singer David Cassidy.

This one-time only presentation of the “T.A.M.I. Show” will serve as a fundraiser for the non-profit theater, which is on track to purchase a new, much wider screen for the venue. It will be 20’x12’ and allow for the showing of many of the great wide screen classics of the past 60 years as well as contemporary films.

“It needs to be electrically retractable so we can use the stage, it’s a lot more expensive that your typical static screen,” said Peter Bie, Film and TV Coordinator for the theater, who also serves as secretary on the board of directors. “We’ve received a generous pledge of $10,000 toward the new screen, but our challenge is to match that amount by the December 31, 2014 deadline this year.”

Wondering what the acronym “T.A.M.I.” means? Alternately known as ‘Teenage Awards Music International’ or ‘Teen Age Music International,’ the film was released to theaters on December 29, 1964. It later suffered a serious alteration after the Beach Boys requested more money for their sequence. When the producers declined, the group demanded their set be cut from the film.

“After it was taken off the theatrical circuit, it seemed to just disappear and over the years took on rather mythical proportions, becoming known as the best rock n’ roll concert movie most people have never seen…or heard of,” said Bie.

It took many years of working out all the legal rights, but Dick Clark Productions was finally able to issue a fully restored DVD in 2010 — with the Beach Boys set intact. This is also the version that will be screened at the Plaza Theater in Carpinteria.

“One of the most amazing things about this film is its clarity,” noted Bie, “which is due to the use of a whiz bang technology of the day called Electronovision–a very early type of higher definition process for recording to videotape. And then it was transferred to 35mm film.” Bie said the concert will look great on the theater’s current screen, and added, “It will really rock on our sound system.”

To provide an insider’s look at how it all came together, the Plaza Theater has invited the film’s producer/director, Steve Binder, to give a first person account of what was involved to gather all the acts for a show that would require two days of performances; the best of each then edited into the final cut.

Binder will take the stage at 7:15pm to give some background on “The T.A.M.I. Show” which will roll at 7:30. He’ll return for the full Q&A after the screening so stick around. He’ll also have on hand copies of his 2008 book, “68 at 40,” a retrospective about the making and airing of the highly rated Elvis Presley “Comeback Special” which he produced and directed in 1968.

“This is a great way to end the summer with such a ‘feel good’ movie”, said Bie. “If you lived through the mid ‘60s, this will send you right back; if you’re too young to know the era, this is a great way to see what was happening, musically, at the time. Keep in mind this show was recorded just seven months after the Beatles hit America’s shores. Even the Rolling Stones appear a ‘bit wet behind the ears.’ It’s a piece of musical history never to be replicated and Steve Binder was there to see it all happen. Imagine the stories he’s got to tell.”  With the new film biopic of James Brown about to hit theaters on August 1, Bie said to see that movie and then “come see the real deal in the “T.A.M.I.” Show. “You’ll leave the theater amazed at Brown’s electrifying stage performance!”

411::  Tickets for the “T.A.M.I. Show” are $20 each and available for purchase now on the theaters’ website: Doors open at 6:30pm and tickets (if available) can be purchased at the box office the night of the show. Located at 4916 Carpinteria Ave. the theatre is wheelchair accessible. Phone number for more info: 805.684.6380 or e-mail us at: Along with the typical fare of popcorn, soft drinks and candy, the theater also serves beer and wine at the concession stand for your pleasure.


this story was in the Winter 2014 issue of Food & Home magazine



By Maureen “Mo” McFadden


There’s a catch phrase in the American lexicon, “You can’t go home again,” but I beg to differ because my favorite watering hole, located at 126 E. Canon Perdido Street once home to the legendary Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens re-opened as the Pickle Room on October 5, 2013. Entering that night, was like walking back in time; proving I could go home again to the “Cheers” like bar where ‘everybody knew my name.’ Legions of fans agreed and they all showed up for the grand opening. Restored lovingly by the father and son team of Bob and Clay Lovejoy, the Pickle Room is welcoming new admirers as well as embracing the old regulars who, like me, found friendships and camaraderie inside its walls. The vibe is still alive.


The room is pitch perfect with the signature pagoda roof now matching the length of the restored red bar, the original oriental lanterns, vintage Asian pin-up girl posters, the “double happiness” symbols and a giant good luck red knot on the gold painted walls, make this a room an authentic throw back while honoring the people who worked and lived there for 66 years – the Chung Family. The original outdoor sign now dominates the back wall of the bar. Tommy Chung, who took over the reins from his dad Jimmy in the 1970s, gave the Lovejoy’s his blessing to use the sign. One of the most important parts of the successful equation was to include Willy Gilbert, who dominated as bartender, DJ, conversationalist, and master joke-teller at Jimmy’s for more than 25 years. He came back to manage the bar and works a few nights a week. Yes, Willy’s eclectic jazz soundtrack is back fueled by a great sound system from Sonos.


Willy and the Lovejoys’ have assembled rock star line up of well-known bartenders including: Chris Wright (who tended bar at Piatti’s for 15 years before it closed), “Jersey” Dave (formerly at Piatti’s and Palmieri’s), PJ Sweet (from Chase and Wine Cask) and “Boston” Jack (whose Bloody Mary was named one of the ten best in the U.S.). These men all come with advanced degrees in mixology, warmth and knowledge of how to create loyal customers – important ingredients for any cocktail lounge. House special signature drinks include: Willy’s Hornitas Margarita; Tommy’s Mai Tai; Old Fashioned; Singapore Sling; and Moscow Mule. The Pickle-tini and shots of pickle juice drawn from the large pickle jar as backs for shots of hard liquor bring the name Pickle Room to life… so, you can get pickled there, literally. (Just take a cab home if you do get pickled).


But wait, it gets better. Chef Weston Richards, whose work at Julian and Wine Cask has been heralded, helped to design the menu with Clay. One of the most popular items on the menu is a hybrid of deli + Chinese cuisine – the Reuben Eggroll. The gastronomic delight has three eggrolls filled with pastrami & Swiss cheese served with Russian dressing dipping sauce that has a slight bite of horseradish. It is a taste sensation. If you appreciate a really good hamburger – look no further. Clay, who had his own meat business in Ventura, grinds all the beef in house making the burger one of the juiciest on the planet. Munch the deep fried pickles with panko crust or try the shrimp – both a treat for the taste buds.


Longtime regular of the bar is artist Gary Chafe whose painting of the old Jimmy’s now adorns a t-shirt available for purchase. 


Open six days a week: Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 4:30 to 6pm; Kitchen opens at 5:30 Monday to Saturday. Closing times Monday – Wednesday 11 pm and Thursday through Saturday till 1 am. Kitchen closes earlier. Phone: (805) 965-1015. For more info visit:

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